Virginia’s Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax (D), had no intention of stepping down after Vanessa Tyson, a professor at Scripps College, California, accused him of sexually assaulting her in 2004. Fairfax maintains his encounter with Tyson at the Democratic National Convention in Boston that year was consensual. His future is far less certain, however, after a second and even more serious allegation against him surfaced Friday, February 8.
The Washingon Post reports that a woman identifying herself as Meredith Watson claims, through her attorney, that Fairfax assaulted her in 2000 when the two were students at North Carolina’s Duke University. The statement from Watson describes the assault as “premeditated and aggressive” and goes on to say that Watson had told friends and classmates about the incident – some of them right after the assault took place. Several of those she confided in have, apparently, provided statements.
According to The Washington Post, an attorney who studied at Duke at the same time corroborated Watson’s claim. Kaneedreck Adams recalls Watson, in tears, describing what had happened. “She told me she had been raped,” Adams said, “and she named Justin.”
No Good Options For Virginia Democrats
The entire situation is an embarrassment for the Democratic Party. After Virginia Governor Ralph Northam got into hot water over a racially insensitive photograph on his page in a medical school yearbook, some leading Democrats, like presidential hopeful Cory Booker, were hoping Fairfax, who is black, would replace the governor. That now appears to be out of the question.
Virginia Democrats have to either stick by Northam – which would seem awkward since many of them have already demanded his resignation – or they must allow third-in-line Attorney General Mark Herring to replace him. Herring has also admitted to wearing blackface while he was a student. With the state’s top three officials – all Democrats – facing problems, then, the next rightful successor to the governorship is Republican Kirk Cox who is currently the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.
According to her attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, Watson does not want publicity and has no interest in monetary or other compensation, but she is calling on Fairfax to resign. “At this time,” the statement released by Smith said, “Ms. Watson is reluctantly coming forward out of a strong sense of civic duty and her belief that those seeking or serving in public office should be of the highest character.”
Fairfax has already been protected for political reasons: Virginia Representative Bobby Scott (D) was made aware of the first allegation a year ago and said nothing. The Washington Post initially decided not to run the story of Tyson’s allegation.
Though Fairfax deserves the due process Democrats attempted to deny Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, he is unlikely to hold onto his position. To avoid the perception of jaw-dropping hypocrisy, Democrats who have championed the “Me Too” movement will have no choice but to call for the lieutenant governor to step down.